A summary of the activity of Brighton Solfed in the start of 2018, showcasing the cases we've dealt with up to May.
After a busy 2017, ending with a string of victories, 2018 looks set to be even busier for Brighton Solidarity Federation. In the first 5 months of the year, we’ve had many cases, both with our housing union and workplace disputes.
With a task as huge as that which we’ve set ourselves, it always seems like there’s more to do, and so it’s often easy for our disputes along the way to be forgotten. With this in mind, we felt it important to catalogue and bring attention to some of our results so far – if only to show that when we fight back against rip off landlords and exploitative bosses, we can win.
The year began with a successful end to our long running case against Café Plenty, which saw several pickets at the end of last year (we haven’t had time to write up this case yet, but here are articles from earlier in the dispute , resulting in the best part of the £7500 in unpaid wages going to the worker. This set the scene for the year to go on!
As well as Café Plenty, we carried over 2 cases from 2017 – first was a housing case against G4 Lets , which we concluded less successfully in March – tenants felt at this point the research that accompanied our campaign, which proved the agency had ignored a council environmental health report would give them enough leverage that going down a legalistic route as opposed to a direct action one, would have a higher chance of success. At this point we wished them well in their new direction. Coming out of this, a well attended housing rights workshop specifically aimed at other G4 Lets tenants (G4Lets are one of the larger student letting agents in the city) was organised with the support of the tenants. Since concluding the dispute, we have been approached by several G4 Lets tenants for advice, a group of which were able to get back part of their deposit.
The other case we carried on from 2017 was against Youngs. This case involved tenant, who due to major damp issues was unable to use his bedroom for months, and had spent significant amounts of money and time repairing the damage, with the promise that this would be refunded. This case has been a major focus of the local this year so far – in January we held a march on the agency as a show of strength against this treatment. The case is currently ongoing, with major escalations on the part of the agency and landlord including an attempt at revenge eviction of the tenant , and recently violence from the agent against solfed members. Solfed have extended the campaign to Halls letting agents, who rent Youngs their office, demanding they evict the evictors. We are determined to show we can’t be bullied down, and the campaign continues, intensified. More information on the case can be found here and an interview with the tenant can be found here .
Alongside these major cases, we’ve had a number of shorter cases throughout the year. In February we opened a dispute with one of Brighton’s more corporate lettings agencies after part of a tenant’s deposit was withheld, alongside other issues. Despite attempts by the agency to threaten us legally, our escalating campaign had the desired result, with the tenant getting the money she wanted.
We also had a series of shorter cases – winning £1200 in unpaid wages from a sushi restaurant after a single picket, winning against a major hotel chain again after one picket (dispute not yet written up – we just won last week!) and over £1000 owed from a local dry cleaning firm, with just the threat of a picket.
However our goal is more than just helping individuals and winning cases: as an anarcho-syndicalist union, we want to build a culture of solidarity and resistance amongst working class people. Every dispute that ends in success takes us closer to that goal because it shows that when we stand up to bosses and landlords, we can win. But disputes that are not a clear-cut victory - such as the G4 Lets campaign - are important in building that culture of solidarity and resistance too: they send a strong signal to lettings agencies that even in difficult cases we are prepared to campaign for months. It is through fighting back regardless of the prospect of winning that we are beginning to change what landlords and bosses can get away with in Brighton - and nothing is more gratifying than the emails we occasionally receive of tenants or workers telling us that they were able to resolve a housing or workplace problem by threatening to approach SolFed for support.
Alongside all of this, we’ve also held a series of fundraisers, a regular series of film showings (sub.media’s Trouble series) - and we are continuing to grow our membership. Our members continue to organise in their own workplaces, often able to use the skills, confidence and tactics we’ve developed in these cases into our own cases to build long term workplace strength, and a culture of collectively standing up to improve our conditions.
All in all, we think it bodes pretty well for the rest of the year, as we continue to make anarcho-syndicalism a reality in Brighton, and take the fight to the bosses and landlords – we aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t stopping any time soon!